Do you remember “that kid” whose mom was a clingy, smothering mess? You know the one we usually made fun of and teased relentlessly? The one we dubbed “Mama’s Boy.” “That kid’s” mom was always around and always over-mothering. She hovered, babied and embarrassed the snot out of that poor kid.
As “that kid” grew older, mom became even more clingy. Eventually, the poor kid just gave up. He barely had any friends, couldn’t have a girlfriend and ended up going to the prom with his mom. When it was time for “that kid” to attend college, his mother had a panic attack and was hospitalized (briefly) when he suggested attending a college out of town—not out of state—out of town. “That kid” is now an unmarried 40-year-old who lives in his mom’s basement and manages the local supermarket.
The dangers of over-attachment
We’ve all heard statements like, “you are the air I breathe,” “the curve in my smile” or “the reason I get out of bed in the morning.” And on the surface, they sound extremely sweet, iconic, passionate, and intense but in reality, they are dangerous. Idolizing and clinging to a person, relationship or material possession leads to undue fear, irrational thinking and can have catastrophic results. Understanding that you are a complete person with and without your possessions, relationships, status, wealth and/or power is the key to mental stability and allows you to cope with the hurricanes the winds of change inevitably bring.
What non-attachment is
The concept of non-attachment is attributed to the Buddist religion as this is a fundamental practice of Buddhist monks, however, most religions (including Christianity) and pop culture psychology advocate a healthy dose of detachment in our everyday lives and relationships.
Non-attachment is an objective and practical way of viewing the world, relationships and possessions. It is a choice that drives one’s perspective to view things, situations and people as they truly are. This thought pattern allows an individual to make rational and pragmatic decisions that are not fear-based, selfish, biased or based on one’s current emotional state.
Non-attachment breaks the bonds of clinginess and unhealthy dependence so many relationships experience and foster a relationship steeped in open and honest communication and promotes interdependence.
What non-attachment is not
Non-attachment is not indifference, apathy, uncaring or the absence of emotions. Feelings don’t cease to exist. Individuals simply choose to relate to them differently because they understand their ephemeral nature.
Practicing non-attachment can benefit your relationships
Change is an inevitable part of life. You must expect, accept and embrace it in order to maintain your sanity and to keep moving forward. Babies grow up. The kids will eventually move out. Grandparents die. Lovers quarrel. These are facts. Being overly attached or dependent on anything is the recipe for disaster and precipitates the unhappiness and deep pain so many people experience unnecessarily. Non-attachment is the practice of developing a healthy view and relationship with the world around you. Here are a few keys to help you break your unhealthy attachments:
- Be present in the now: Things may change. He or she may leave you; someone may be a victim of a violent crime; you could lose everything in a tragic house fire…these things COULD happen. But they haven’t. Worrying is not a preventative measure. It inhibits you from experiencing the joys of now and robs you of the time you do have with people, places and things.
- Develop a healthy view of yourself: Learn to love yourself as you are right now. Strip away all of the external factors: your looks, your career, your accomplishments, your friends and family members, and love the essence of who you are at this very moment.
- Identify areas of unhealthy attachments and work to develop a healthy and realistic view of those things: The easiest way to identify an unhealthy attachment is to think about those things you are deathly afraid of losing. Also, think about your sources of validation. Where do you draw your sense of identity? Another person? A job? Being a parent? Once you’ve identified these areas, work on confronting the fear. What would you do without them or it? How would you move on?
Non-attachment is about existing in the present moment and acknowledging what is actually happening now. It gives you the power and capacity to shift or change a situation and not be a victim to it.